Face transplant recipient may be headed for last surgery



11:56 PM, Sep. 16, 2011

Mitch Hunter has recovered from a mysterious two-month bout with fevers and is ready to return to Boston for what could be the last of about 50 facial surgeries in the past decade.

Hunter, 30, said he plans to return to Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston in October or November to have a “nip/tuck”-type surgery on his neck. The procedure will remove some of the excess skin that remained after he received a face transplant in April.


Mitch Hunter, 30, has made great strides since undergoing face transplant surgery in April. (Matt Detrich / The Star)


The Speedway man was the fourth U.S. face transplant recipient — and the third to have his procedure done at Brigham and Women’s. Since his surgery in April, Charla Nash, a Connecticut woman mauled by a chimpanzee two years ago, also got a face transplant at the hospital.

Hunter’s operation occurred more than a decade after he lost his face, two fingers and half his left leg to a severe shock from an electrical wire in a car accident in North Carolina. Before his face transplant, he had undergone 47 face graft operations since 2001.

Last month, Hunter went back to Brigham and Women’s for a checkup and to get treatment for the recurring fevers that had baffled doctors here.

At Brigham, Hunter said, a tooth in the back of his mouth was pulled. It had cracked earlier when his wisdom teeth were removed.

“Infection from that tooth was getting into my bloodstream,” he said. “I haven’t had any fevers since then.”

Otherwise, Hunter said, the doctors are pleased with his progress and how he’s handling the immunosuppressant medications that stave off rejection.

He received a nose, eyelids, lips, muscles of facial animation and the nerves that power them and

provide sensation.

Almost all of the swelling that occurred after the operation has gone down. Hunter’s also sporting a new look — a mustache and goatee.

In the past few months, medical and travel expenses have been accumulating. To help with those, Vicky Wilkerson, assistant manager at Applebee’s Speedway, decided to have a “Dine to Donate” event Monday on his behalf. A total of 15 percent of the proceeds from food purchased from 11 a.m. to midnight will go to Hunter. Patrons need to bring in a flier they can print from the Applebee’s Speedway Facebook page.

“I like to do anything I can to help someone in the community,” said Wilkerson, who has gotten to know Hunter in the past year. “It helps build up the community.”

During the day, there will be a silent auction of items related to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Indianapolis Ice, and other donated items. Two Indianapolis Colts cheerleaders will be on hand from 8 to 9 p.m. to sign autographs and give away two Colts tickets.

written by Barb Berggoetz

filed under Communities West Marion County Indianapolis Motor